Leather and Alternatives

Our German member Verband der Deutschen Lederindustrie e.V. (VDL) has been added to the list of qualified trade associations under the German Unfair Competition Act (Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb) and is now authorised to issue legal warnings to companies using the word leather in a misleading way in their advertising. In COTANCE, we care about transparency, and we fight against unfair claims. We are not doing this to make money or gain notoriety, but simply because our affiliated companies are harmed when others misuse the term leather. Let us be clear, we are not against leather alternatives – but we are against consumer deception. That is why it is sometimes worthwhile for us to take note of what others are doing.

A former Adidas marketing executive, Eric Liedtke gives us food for thought in ”Microplastics are becoming an omnipresent killing machine”, an interview published in ”Brand Eins” (issue 2/23).
For starters, he doesn’t like the term sustainability, arguing that it needs to be explained and only makes sense if companies outline exactly which measures they are taking and which they are not.  We can only agree.

Liedtke describes PET (polyethylene terephthalate) as an eternal material that never completely disappears. It eventually decomposes into microplastics and enters our food chain, our bloodstream and our lungs via soil, air and water. He therefore calls microplastics an omnipresent killing machine and can imagine that in the future recycled plastic will no longer be considered sustainable. Here, too, we can only agree.
Therefore he advises a shift to plant and mineral materials, which at the end of their use do not turn into waste,but return to the earth. Here, we would like to add animal-based materials.

Liedtke also estimates that as a consumer you need a doctorate if you want to find your way through sustainability smokescreens such as compostableregenerative or recycled. Many buyers of jerseys made from recycled PET would be surprised to learn that they pump more microplastics into the environment with the recycled jersey than with a jersey made from new PET fibres. Also, here we can only agree. Advertising is advertising and rarely serious science.

While Liedtke attests that customers are interested in environmentally friendly products, he notes that recycled plastic is still plastic. Indeed, there are no simple solutions.

His brief description of marketing is also interesting: ”How do you make an object of desire out of a random product that ultimately nobody needs? Through good storytelling”. Often, leather is misrepresented to tell stories about other materials and it is here that COTANCE and its members step in to make sure that truth about leather is understood.
An insightful article that evidences that there are many ways to make the world a better place. None is easy or perfect, but some are deceptive and using incorrect means. And even though Liedtke did not mention leather in the interview, leather, as a natural material, used since the eve of time, is one of these ways!

Edited in March 2023 by

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